COVID Omicron News: Free at-home rapid tests, face masks start to arrive from federal government

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- COVID at-home rapid tests ordered through COVIDtests.gov are starting to arrive in the mail.

Also, the first free N95 masks promised to Americans by the White House have started arriving at pharmacies.

Chains like Walgreens and Rite Aid say only some stores will start distributing masks later this week.

The FDA is revoking its emergency use authorization for two antibody treatments because they don't work against the omicron variant, though they could be re-authorized if they prove effective against future variants.

RELATED: What are the symptoms of the COVID omicron variant?

Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:



Nassau County Executive Blakeman tells Hochul to 'stand down' with appeal on mask mandate ruling
New York State quickly filed an appeal after a Supreme Court judge in the state ruled that the New York's mask mandate can't be enforced after it was reinstituted over concerns about a winter surge of coronavirus cases. The State Education Department released a statement Tuesday saying, "The Governor and State DOH have filed a Notice of Appeal and are seeking confirmation that the Court's order is stayed. While these legal steps occur, it is NYSED's position that schools should continue to follow the mask rule." Some districts told parents that masks in classes would be optional until the appeal was formally filed, which it has been. Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Governor Kathy Hochul should "stand down" on the state's appeal.

Here's how to get free N95 masks from pharmacies or community health centers
The rollout of free N95 masks for the public began this week across the United States, with some pharmacies already handing out the masks and others expecting to do so in the coming days. The program is part of the Biden administration's effort to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile via pharmacies and community health centers. The program is expected to be fully up and running by early February. The masks are arriving at their destinations with accompanying flyers and signage from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for the masks. Here's what you need to know about getting a free N95 mask through this program.

Sarah Palin allegedly flouted COVID rules by dining indoors unvaccinated ahead of trial
A Manhattan restaurant is looking into its enforcement of vaccine requirements for indoor dining after Sarah Palin allegedly dined there indoors while unvaccinated. Palin is in New York City for her defamation trial against the New York Times, which was delayed Monday morning after she tested positive for Covid-19.

"She is, of course, unvaccinated," said US District Judge Jed Rakoff who is presiding over the trial, according to Reuters. It is now expected to begin February 3.

An attorney for Palin declined to comment.

Elton John tests positive for COVID-19 and postpones next Dallas stop after performing in Houston
Elton John has postponed the next two shows of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour after he tested positive for COVID-19. The 74-year-old music icon's camp announced the postponement of a two-night slate at Dallas' American Airlines Center that was set to begin Tuesday night.

"It is with great regret that the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour dates in Dallas set for Tuesday, January 25 and Wednesday, January 26 must be postponed due to Elton recently testing positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, Elton is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is experiencing only mild symptoms," the musician's representatives said in a statement late Tuesday morning.

Neil Young wants his music scrubbed from Spotify because of 'vaccine misinformation' on the platform
Neil Young, an outspoken advocate for COVID-19 safety and prevention, doesn't want his music to share a home with vaccine misinformation. In a now-deleted post on his website, Young asked his managers and record label to remove his music from Spotify because he said the music and podcast platform is "spreading fake information about vaccines -- potentially causing death to those who believe this disinformation spread by them." Rolling Stone originally reported the text of the deleted post.

"I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform," the 76-year-old said in Monday's post, according to Rolling Stone. "They can have Rogan or Young. Not both."

What is MIS-C in children? TX mom shares son's story of 'scary' battle with rare COVID complication
A 6-year-old Houston boy and his mom are reflecting on his scary battle with a rare COVID-19 complication in children that left him hospitalized in the ICU for more than two weeks. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, also known as MIS-C, in children is a rare condition where different parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs and brain. It usually happens three to four weeks after contracting the virus. It is extremely rare, with only 1% of kids with COVID getting it. Last January, Sara Cantu took her son, Santana, who was 5 at the time, to the hospital when he began experiencing symptoms weeks after contracting COVID.

FDA halts use of monoclonal antibody drugs from Regeneron, Eli Lilly that don't work vs. omicron
COVID-19 antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly should no longer be used because they don't work against the omicron variant that now accounts for nearly all U.S. infections, U.S. health regulators said. The Food and Drug Administration said it was revoking emergency authorization for both drugs, which were purchased by the federal government and have been administered to millions of Americans with COVID-19. If the drugs prove effective against future variants, the FDA said it could reauthorize their use. The regulatory move was expected because both drugmakers had said the infusion drugs are less able to target omicron due to its mutations. Still, the federal action could trigger pushback from some Republican governors who have continued promoting the drugs against the advice of health experts.

Pfizer starts clinical trials for vaccine designed to specifically target COVID-19 omicron variant
Despite the effectiveness of current vaccines and boosters against omicron, Pfizer is starting trials for a vaccine specifically targeting the problematic variant. Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a clinical trial for their Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine candidate, they announced in a news release on Tuesday. The study will evaluate the vaccine for safety, tolerability and the level of immune response, as both a primary series and a booster dose, in up to 1,420 healthy adults ages 18 to 55.

COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility for women or men, study finds
A new study adds to the growing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for both pregnant people and people hoping to become pregnant. The study, which looked at more than 2,000 couples in the United States and Canada, found "no adverse association" between getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and fertility, for both men and women. On the other hand, men who contract COVID-19 may experience a temporary reduction in fertility. Couples who had a male partner test positive for COVID-19 within 60 days of their partner's menstrual cycle were 18% less likely to conceive in that cycle, according to the study, published on Jan. 20 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

When am I contagious if infected with omicron?
When am I contagious if infected with omicron? It's not yet clear, but some early data suggests people might become contagious sooner than with earlier variants - possibly within a day after infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the few days before and after symptoms develop. But that window of time might happen earlier with omicron, according to some outside experts. That's because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants - about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, that means people with omicron could start becoming contagious as soon as a day after infection.

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